Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s bombshell announcement Friday that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an Independent sparked a fury among liberals who accused the iconoclastic lawmaker of being a self-serving traitor.

The first-term senator argued in an op-ed published Friday by the Arizona Republic as well as several interviews that she has “never really fit into a box of any political party” — and she vowed not to caucus with Senate Republicans.

Should she keep her promise, Democrats will still retain their narrow voting majority in the closely divided Senate.

In a video explaining her decision, Sinema said: “Registering as an independent and showing up to work with the title of independent is a reflection of who I’ve always been. … Nothing’s going to change for me.”

Sinema’s move sparked an immediate backlash from Democrats, who took to Twitter to express their anger and frustration with the newly-minted Independent.

The Arizona Democratic Party ripped Sinema for declining to scrap the Senate’s legislative filibuster to pass election reform legislation and for opposing increases in corporate tax rates, saying she was “leaving Arizonans behind.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, from Arizona, was branded a traitor by Democrats after announcing that she had switched her party affiliation to Independent Friday.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, from Arizona, was branded a traitor by Democrats after announcing that she had switched her party affiliation to Independent Friday.
Nathan Posner/Shutterstock

“As a party, we welcome Independent voters and their perspectives,” the statement read. “Senator Sinema may now be registered as an Independent, but she has shown she answers to corporations and billionaires, not Arizonans. Senator Sinema’s party registration means nothing if she continues to not listen to her constituents.”

Progressive Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), seen by many as a potential challenger to Sinema in 2024, accused her of “once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”

“We need Senators who will put Arizonans ahead of big drug companies and Wall Street bankers,” Gallego said. “Whether in the Marine Corps or in Congress, I have never backed down from fighting for Arizonans. And at a time when out nation needs leadership the most, Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle.”

“She’s not driven by ideology,” tweeted Melanie D’Arrigo, a former Democratic congressional candidate from New York. “She’s driven by which corporations and lobbyists are giving her the most money — which makes her an elected mercenary, not an elected representative of the people.”

Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko was even less diplomatic, tweeting: “I see Kyrsten Sinema is still great at being the f—ing worst.”

Several critics accused Sinema of using Arizona’s Democrats to get elected and then turning her back on them once in office.

“Krysten Sinema ran as a Democrat, voted as a Republican, and now switched parties to Independent,” wrote user enrich12. “@SenatorSinema is a traitor. She fooled the people of Arizona.”

MSNBC analyst Brittany Packnett Cunningham suggested that Sinema had decided to switch her political afflation because she could not survive a Democratic primary in 2024 — noting she had announced the move three days after Sen. Raphael Warnock won his runoff race in Georgia, delivering Democrats a 51st Senate seat.

“None of this is surprising but it is confirmation that she is the worst,” Packnett Cunningham added.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan echoed those words, writing: “Sinema owes her entire career to the Democratic Party, she’s been endlessly indulged by party leadership, but she waits till a moment of celebration for the Democrats to make this announcement. Like I’ve said before, it goes way beyond politics or ideology — she’s just awful.”

Hasan also wondered “what Joe Manchin is thinking this morning,” referring to the centrist Democrat senator from West Virginia who, along with Sinema, has used his leverage to block or water down some of President Biden’s big-ticket initiatives, including a minimum wage increase and extended child tax credits.

“I have always believed that Sinema was worse than Manchin and so her pulling this move before Manchin did is a vindication of that view,” Hasan said.

Republicans, however, welcomed the news of Sinema’s exit from the Democratic Party.

Sinema branded a self-serving "traitor" and by Democrats after switching to and Independent.
Sinema branded a self-serving “traitor” and by Democrats after switching to an Independent.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, (R-Colo.) tweeted: “Good to see @KyrstenSinema leaving the Democrat Party. Just this year we’ve had @TulsiGabbard & Senator Sinema – both high profile Democrats – change parties. Hope many more see the light!”

At the White House, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre praised Sinema as a “key partner” in passing some of Biden’s priorities and said the switch “does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate … We have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her.”

While unusual for a sitting senator to switch party affiliation, the move is not expected to significantly alter the operations of the Senate.

Before Sinema’s announcement, Democrats were set to hold a 51-49 edge in the chamber come January. Until then, the Senate will remain evenly split, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tiebreaking vote for Democrats.

More importantly, Sinema was expected to keep her committee assignments, according to a Senate Democratic aide, making life a little easier for the Democrats with whom she usually votes.

With Post wires

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